Join Date: Jun 2001
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Molik ready to battle invaders
Molik ready to battle invaders
January 10, 2005
RED-HOT Alicia Molik says she is moving with bolstered confidence towards fresh battles with the Russians menacing women's tennis in Sydney and Melbourne.
Molik last year beat two of the three Russians who lifted first-time grand slam titles, Wimbledon winner Maria Sharapova and official world champion Anastasia Myskina, during her rise to No.13 in world rankings with wins in 26 of her past 30 matches.
Myskina and Russia's world No.6 Elena Dementieva could confront Molik this week at Sydney's Medibank International, at which world No.1 Lindsay Davenport is top seed, in a form check before next week's Australian Open.
"My game really matches up well against them. I don't think I have any more of an advantage or disadvantage than someone like Davenport or [Justine] Henin-Hardenne," Molik said.
"I don't deny I have a reasonable record against them and every time I play one of the top 20 girls lately, I always get in a position to win - every single match."
Molik, touted by Davenport as one of the Open title chances, is seeded to play Russia's fourth seed Vera Zvonareva, ranked No.11, in the Sydney quarter-finals and they are in the same half of the draw as second seed Myskina.
Molik, 23, has a 2-2 win-loss record in career meetings with French Open winner Myskina, having beaten her in straight sets in the Athens Olympic bronze medal playoff last August, and is 1-1 with Dementieva.
Of the two other Russian top-10 players entered at the Australian Open but not playing in Sydney, Sharapova has a 2-1 advantage over Molik and US Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova holds a 4-2 edge over the Australian No.1.
"Next time I play Sharapova, I'll be looking to make it even," Molik said.
"There are so many quality Russians and they all give you a bloody hard time. They are a huge force and they are fighters on the court."
After winning all her three Hopman Cup matches,
Molik's first opponent in Sydney is Italy's world No.19 Francesca Schiavone - a first-round match contested by two top-20 players which attests to the depth of the women's field.
Molik says she does not concern herself with opinions on her tennis, but credit paid by Davenport and Myskina indicates how she is now being seen as a major player on the tour.
"She's improved a lot. I played her in Sarasota, Florida in 2003 and I beat her really easy," Myskina said.
"Her serve is the big thing that is making her play great. She is serving 12 aces per match and I can serve 12 double-faults per match, which makes a difference.
"She's become a really aggressive player."
Molik's coach David Taylor, who previously worked with former world No.1 Martina Hingis, said her amiable nature had been wrongly interpreted in Australia often as "being too relaxed" about her career.
"To win a grand slam when you haven't been past a fourth round at one, like Alicia has, is a very ambitious goal," Taylor said.
"But she can have a real impact in Melbourne and if she is in the final, then it's happy days.
"It's not surprising her peers are saying these things about her because she is beating a lot of them. Alicia doesn't read much into that hype and still has the attitude that her game isn't complete."
Australian Fed Cup captain John Alexander said: "It doesn't always come across, her fierce desire to be a much better player. She was always unfairly tagged in Australia as an under-achiever."
Alexander has tipped Molik to win one or more Grand Slam titles in the next year and said yesterday Davenport was "a very good judge".
"Alicia's form in Perth, especially in how she dismissed Meghann Shaughnessy, who is a serious player, was unbelievable," Alexander said.
The Daily Telegraph
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